Here’s everything you need to know about our volunteering programme in Kenya with the Masai, including what you can do, how to get around, what to pack and advice on staying healthy.
About the project
What volunteer work can I do?
Volunteer in Kenya and help an endangered Masai community find sustainable ways to maintain their community and traditions. This programme will get under your skin and you might never want to leave.
What volunteer work can I do?
The focus of the programme is as much to live amongst local people and experience the Masai way of life as it is to volunteer pro-actively. Indeed some volunteers rarely attend the school or help with local projects, preferring to help around the family house or play with the neighbour’s children and carry out repairs on the house there are staying at.
If you would like to stretch yourself and be more active you can get involved with variety of great projects from teaching, playwork and building. Every volunteer’s experience will be different to the next and volunteer experiences are self-directed. Where one volunteer may assist or take a class at the nursery school, the next volunteer may instead work with the local teacher introducing them to new activities and materials.
It is as much about being a positive visitor to a marginalised community and giving confidence to local people.
For those who would like to teach, volunteers focus on the younger and primary school age group at the little Masai school for 3 – 8 year old Masai children. As of March 2014, there are 45 children attending between 9am and 3pm. There are three local teachers and a project manager for support and assistance. Everyone is welcome to have a go. Bring any materials you can from home or buy any basics in Ngong town when you pop into town.
In addition, no one will be judging your teaching in this environment. The children receive very little, if any, education when volunteers are not taking classes so every class or activity is very precious. Most volunteers who have taught have focused on basic Maths (3 + 5 = 8 and the times tables) and basic English (copying from the board,spelling tests). Read our guides on how to organise young children’s activities and how to teach English on projects which you may find useful preparation.
We consider this project ideal if you…
Want to experience life within a traditional African tribe.
Want a relaxed and varied experience at your own pace.
Enjoy the outdoor life.
Want to get back to basics away from it all for a short while.
Gain invaluable health care experience at clinics and pharmacies.
Want a unique experience that is something to remember for many years to come.!
Can I help with building projects?
There are always projects on the go which need finishing or urgently starting. Ask your family what is in need locally, talk the neighbours, the school staff and your coordinators. Volunteers have built toilets for the Olasiti primary school, the equipment at the playground, painted classrooms, cleared roads and introduced greenhouses. Soil erosion and the draining away of valuable water on crops is a constant challenge. Volunteers have worked to limit this with irrigation systems, planted trees (in the rainy season), dug ditches and built protective barriers for crops.
Things can be achieved quickly in Kenya, a group from Butlins (the UK holiday park) built a library from scratch in just 5 days!
If you’re building please try and raise some money from home. There is no local funding available so everything which has been built so far has come mostly from volunteers generously financing projects. There is an urgent need for a water borehole in the Olasiti community where there is now a new orphanage. Each year the summer drought between November and April (the Kenyan summer) threatens to lose whole communities who lose crops and animals to water shortages. Now with the new orphanage the children are also at risk. If every volunteer could fund raise an extra £100 there would be enough to build a borehole before September 2014.
What support is provided?
Your host family will be your first point of contact and will assist with immediate day to day support whilst you are on the project. Alternately, there is always a co-ordinator, who you can contact via telephone if you need anything. They can help you with anything you are worried about or generally need help with. Anyone ill or needing hospital treatment will be escorted. Most volunteers comment that aside from a trip into Ngong to shop or for a safari, that they did not feel the need to leave their community during their stay so it is a good idea to bring personal entertainment for the evenings and lazy days.
Can I work in healthcare?
If you will be 18 years old on arrival and are interested in working in health, there is something for everyone in the Masai. Younger volunteers or anyone not currently on courses at home (nursing/medicine) help at clinics and pharmacies. From registering patients, to observation and working alongside the junior local staff to keep things clean and organised you will learn a lot about working with professionals and the challenges of healthcare in rural Kenya.
Nursing and medical students together with qualified professionals will have opportunities to directly attend to patients with under supervision of the local team. An additional contribution of £75 per week is payable for health placements to cover the following: pre-arrival organisation of placements and liaison with local health teams, on going supervision time and a contribution towards resources.
Volunteers above wearing the traditional wraps for a special occasion. The Masai community takes pride in welcoming their guests. Local women wear printed wraps and men wear dark red woven wraps
The sun sets early in the Masai, with limited electricity, the evening’s entertainment is old fashioned and fun. Above, volunteers gather at a Masai home for singing, stories and card games
Free time in Kenya Masai
Living with the Kenya Masai people is an experience of superlatives. Other than a safari, very few volunteers feel any need to get away and explore on their own or head into town, although if you are desperate for tarmac and toilets, towns can be reached. Exploring, learning and experiencing new things is part of every day life with the Masai. Enjoy!
OV volunteers wearing traditional Masai sheet, called a shuka, during a celebration in the Masai community.
Free or small gift, £5
Celebrations are part of the Masai ritual, new arrivals, departing volunteers, completed projects, full moon, half moon. Everything is celebrated and volunteers warmly welcomed and encouraged to join in.
More often than not it is the volunteers who are being fussed over as guests so opting out or having an early night is not an option!
Volunteers enjoying the pool in town.
Swimming pool within easy reach
Take a hike over the Ngong Hills Forest park into Ngong town, stock up on supplies and reward yourself with a dip in the pool.
Alternatively pre-book a moto-taxi (£3 each way).
OV volunteers Jo, Van and Emma on safari in the reserve.
Masai Mara safari
Price from £150
Most tourists visit the Masai Mara reserve to see animals and the Masai warriors. As a volunteer already living with the Masai, you can focus on the animals and you won’t be disappointed. In the national park, the dramatic river crossings take place in July and August and it’s where the wildebeest herds congregate between July and October after spending their time in the Serengeti.
Expect to see lions, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, gazelles and if you’re lucky with timing, the wildebeest migration. 8 in 10 volunteers on the programme do the Masai Mara safari. Allow approx £100. Ask your coordinator on arrival for dates and meeting points. Don’t forget to take a good camera and strong shoes/walking boots.
OV volunteers at a traditional Masai camp fire evening.
Price from just £5
When the sun sets, grab a traditional Masai wrap and join the Masai for their evening story telling and dancing around the camp fire. Everyone welcome!
If your hosts are sleepy, get over to Illkilarit with a sleeping bag and listen to stories. Coordinator arranges regular overnight stays for £5 per person
Bars within reach at the weekend in Ngong town.
Price from £10
A couple of popular options if you are in need of a beer and some international food, the Juango Club, 1 hour into Ngong then 5 min walk. 1 in 5 volunteers make a trip here. Meals under £10 and international beer £5.
More popular with volunteers with more than half making a visit at some point,the Millenium Club, 1 hr from Olasiti. Offers swimming pool (£3) and meals £5. Bus £5.
OV volunteers take a break during a walk with their host families.
Mountains and valley walks
Walking in the immediate area is part of the experience. Nearly everyone explores in the afternoon with their coordinator or local guides. Take water and snacks. Duration 1.5 – 2 hours.
Visit Hell’s Gate for a surreal experience amongst the caves.
Hells Gate National Park
Hike through these dramatic cliffs in this spectacular gorge. Most visitors hire mountain bikes and tour the trails independently.
Guides also available. Stunning views, spot gazelles, buffalo, jackals and warthogs. Bring swimwear for the hot pool, also water and snacks.
Stay at Camp Carnelly’s the night before, 2.5 hours from Nairobi, essential to start at 5:30am before the animals hide for the day.
Entrance is free, guides tour around £75 – £100.
Get close to the giraffes at the giraffe centre.
If you have been very unlucky and not yet seen giraffes near your home stay then the giraffe centre is worth a trip to get very close to these incredible animals.
Take some wet wipes as they may want to kiss you!
Visit a famous writer’s home nearby.
Karen Blixen Museum
Visit the home of Karen Blixen, Danish author, made famous following the 1985 film Out of Africa starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
Might be worth watching the film before you go to get the best experience and ask to be guided around. 20 minutes taxi from Ngong.
Where will I be staying?
Living 30 miles south of Nairobi on the protected Masai reserve amongst the Masai tribe places you in probably the safest part of the whole of Kenya. There is a great community spirit in the Masai, away from the hustle and bustle of the city of Nairobi, by contrast everyone here knows each other, looks out for one another and as a consequence, crime is virtually non-existent so you will be in safe hands.
Where are the clinics and pharmacies? And how do I get there?
Health centres are located in the Masai land at Oloosho-oibor and Ilkilorit villages and Ngong town. Ngong is the closest town to the Masai villages over the ridge. It is a 1.5 hour walk through pleasant wooded countryside or take a motorbike taxi (£6 return for 50 minute round the ridge, pre-book with the regular taxi a day in advance). For volunteers in the Masai villages, volunteers walk with their host family until they know the route and are settled in. Often families will continue to escort their guest throughout a visit. For volunteers at the clinic in Ngong town, motorbike taxi is the only practical option on a daily basis. A home stay in Ngong town can also be arranged and a transfer can be organised for you after arrival, spaces permitting.
There is always something being built or repaired in Masai land. Here volunteers build a new lending library for the resources volunteers bring with them
One to one attention and informal teaching outside of the Masai school can be just as important, especially where school education for the Masai children is only available for a few hours a day
What else can I do?
Hang out with your host family! Engage, chat, help with the midday meal, learn to milk the goat, play with the younger children while mum is busy and share stories. Did you know that the first host families asked every volunteer how many goats they had at home! Getting to know your host family is an essential part of the experience and can reveal a lot about how this unique community lives. There are also a number of orphans in the community and a new orphanage is being built to home 25 children. It is expected this will be finished in 2017 but work is slow due to limited funds. Read about Gill James’s experience with the Masai.
Moto-taxi is the easiest way to get into Ngong town for supplies. It’s only £3 and saves a two hour walk over the Ngong Hills when you are in a hurry
Numerous projects have been completed by scratch from volunteers. Here the community library, built by volunteers from the UK company Butlins was finished in just 5 days.
How will I know where I will be based for a health placement?
All volunteers stay in the Masai land villages in the first instance. Long stay volunteers can choose later if they would like to move into Ngong town, spaces permitting.
Are meals provided?
Kenyans make their food from locally sourced produce such as goat, chicken and vegetables with rice. When staying with your host family, you will be provided with three traditional meals per day. These can be starchy so take your extra special treats from home. We recommend you top up with snacks and plenty of drinking water on arrival in Kenya at a supermarket on the way so no need to take everything from home! Long life cartons of milk, juice and long life bread and biscuits are essential due to the walking distance into Ngong town. Masai breakfasts generally consist of Chai (tea), toast, cereal, fruit or Mandazi (deep fried dough). A typical lunch can include meat and vegetables in gravy with rice, or sandwiches and fruit. Dinner, usually served between 7 and 8pm is a more traditional fare of ugali, chapatti, moboga with some meat and vegetables. However there is plenty of time at the weekend to shop in Ngong town for treats and snacks. You can reach Ngong on foot over the ridge which is a protected national park with great views. If you are not feeling that energetic for the 2 hour stroll, a motorbike taxi can be pre-booked and costs approx. £3 each way for the 50 minute journey.
Giraffes wander freely around the Masai community where you stay so you might not feel the need to go on safari at the end of your stay
Most volunteers are only a a few fields walk away from Olasiti primary school and everyone is welcome to get involved and help out whatever your background
How can I stay in touch with home?
Calling home (and locally) on a UK SIM is expensive. A Kenyan SIM can be bought for about a £1 to keep you in touch with other volunteers on the programme. Make sure you unlock your phone before you travel. In Kenya, Safaricom is the most popular network. Kenyans often top up with 50 KSH and buy phone cards in denominations of 200, 500, 1000 and 2000. The local team will go through the options on arrival at your orientation. If you need to call home on a payphone, it is approximately 50 UK pence per minute to call from a phone booth/internet cafe.
Will I be on my own?
We will Buddy you up with another volunteer so you can fly out and volunteer together, just let us know at the time of booking. Even if you travel alone, because there are fixed arrival dates, it is likely there will be a few other volunteers arriving on the same day and perhaps the same flight. Also, you may like to create a profile on the travel buddy list and leave a comment on our main Facebook page too for others to contact you. And if there are a few days when you are the only volunteer in your village, it will not be long before another volunteer arrives to join you!
What happens if I book with a friend?
All friends are met and transferred to the Masai village together. Let us know when you book if you are travelling with a friend so we can place you with the same host family in the same village (there are more than 3 villages volunteers live at). Because everyone chooses what they want to do each day, you can stay together with your friend unless you want to work in different locations!
How will I travel around?
It is very easy to get around in Kenya although on this programme, other than one trip into Ngong town for supplies and a beer and a safari, most volunteers stay together at the Masai village. To get into town, many volunteers walk (remember to bring strong walking boots/trainers as the ground is can be rough) If you want to get out and explore, transport is usually by matutu, basically a mini-bus. It is not far in miles to get to Nairobi but getting out of the Masai village into town then onto Nairobi can take longer than you would expect it to back home so leave early and stay overnight in Nairobi if you can. Generally volunteers only go back to Nairobi to join a tour or fly home. Ask your coordinator about getting back to the airport at the end of your stay, they will be more than happy to organise this for you.
Will I have any free time?
In essence as this is a self-directed programme, all your time is your free time on the programme. It is entirely up to you how you organise your days, just let your family know if you will be away from the house during the day or travelling further away as you would if you were staying with a family as a guest at home. During the week you can easily Some head into Ngong if you have time between things to shop; go to a cafe and email home. More often volunteers organise themselves into groups with locals to go exploring the countryside; this way you are not alone, feel safe and can have fun with others. Trips and excursions further afield can be easily arranged by your coordinator after arrival. Scroll down this page to the free time section for more information.
Is there a list of what I need to take with me?
Here’s a list of items recommended by volunteers:
Sleeping bag (warm one recommended for June to August)
Malaria tablets and mozzie net
Padlocks for luggage and small daypack for daily use
Jumper/fleece for the evenings which can be cooler
Swahili phrasebook or dictionary
Airtight plastic food containers to store biscuits/bread and treats
Plastic mug, bowl and utensils if you prefer your own set
Some volunteers recommend Berocca tablets to flavour the water purifying tablets if you are taking them, most volunteers only drink bottled water bought in town
Personal treats from home
Teaching volunteers tend to focus on pre-school and juniors and are often walked home after school when you know where they all live
Healthcare placements are available for all levels. This is also always need for basic first aid in the community at anytime (above) with foot problems and cuts and scratches common due to the environment
Will I need a visa for Kenya?
UK passport holders now (as of 2015) require a visa before travel to Kenya. This is started online at least 30 days before travel.
Are there specific arrival dates?
All volunteers should purchase flights which arrive on the 15th or 30th of the month. This enables host families to be organised more easily by the local team. This also increases your chances of arriving at the same time as other volunteers so you can share your arrival and settling in together as a group.
What happens on arrival?
On arriving in Nairobi, there will be someone there waiting for you at the airport. The person that picks you up at the airport is a regular driver who collects all volunteers and will usually take you to the volunteer accommodation close by for an orientation and overnight stay. It may be possible to transfer straight to the village depending on time of day and other volunteers arriving. The co-ordinator will explain how things work the next day you will then be transferred to the project. Before heading off to your village you will have an opportunity to stock up on supplies at a supermarket to make sure your stay with your host family is as comfortable as possible whilst you settle in during the first week.
What is it like living with a Masai family?
Hundreds of years ago the Masai lived in huts made of twigs and sticks, recently due to the scarcity of wood following droughts, many families live in simple shelters made from corrugated metal. Come prepared for rustic living, with no electricity (or limited to where volunteers have donated equipment) or running water. Volunteers usually have a hut or shed away from the family accommodation although in some families you may stay within the family dwelling. Rooms/sheds usually fit two volunteers. Water is a constant struggle for the Masai so don’t forget to bring some wet wipes with you and hairbands or a headscarf for your hair. Some volunteers have recommended dry shampoo. Volunteers staying with families without toilet facilities have bought a bucket for their room although it is hoped all families soon have at least the use of communal facilities built by volunteers soon. As water is limited you may not be able to wash as often as you would at home so expect to have dirty hands during the day. In the morning animal noises start early so you might not need an alarm clock!
Unfamiliar smells, dust blowing into your room covering everything, children poking their head round every doorway to look at their visitor, using your head torch for light for the long evenings when the sun sets and spontaneous Masai celebrations,just when you thought it was safe to get an early night. However, the far reaching views and wildlife passing by should however make up for any compromises in living standards and unfamiliar routines. See the Accommodation tab above for more and pictures.
Are return transfers provided?
Your coordinator will help organise this for you if you would like one of the drivers to take you straight back to the airport. For this project it is recommended to book this as soon as you know what your plans are to avoid communication delays with your coordinator as mobile signals can be intermittent in the Masai villages. Some volunteers leave their village independently with other volunteers to go on safari or visit Nairobi before flying home so you may want to wait a few days into your stay before confirming plans with the coordinator.
Is accommodation included in the weekly costs?
Your host family accommodation is organised for you and included in your weekly project costs.
How are payments organised if I stay for uneven weeks?
Project costs are calculated on a nightly basis. So if you stay for 12 nights, 12 nights are payable. This helps you to get the best flight deal and work around the flight dates.
How can I keep myself healthy?
Because life is simple with the Masai and few volunteers leave the community other than for a safari or a day trip into Ngong to top up essential supplies, there are few, if any health or safety related incidents of note. There is also a local hospital nearby that is easy to get to should you need to see a doctor. Malaria tablets are essential and need to be started before travel to ensure greater immunity. You will also need some other jabs and boosters before travel, it is a good idea to consult a trained health professional after visiting the NHS website FitForTravel.
Is there a fridge to store insulin?
With most of the Masai community still without electricity there is sadly not a fridge yet available to store insulin. For similar programmes with fridges please see our Ghana and Uganda programmes.
What do I need to bring?
The Masai community has very few resources and luxuries and without a hectic schedule and electricity time can pass more slowly, so pack extras accordingly. A thick novel or history/culture/Masai of Kenya guide, a journal, a pack of cards, a couple of games to play with the children and adults in the evening. Other basics to include: mosquito net, sleeping bag, pillow and a head torch. A lockable trolley type suitcase can also be more practical to keep the dust out of your clothes for long stay volunteers. If you plan to teach during your stay, may also wish to bring some activity books for primary school age with ideas for Maths and English. Science and Geography might break things up too, most of the children will not know that there are other countries outside of Kenya. A Swahili dictionary will be extremely useful for making conversation. For the new orphanage to open in June 2014 they will be in need of bedding (available cheaply in the UK from Primark or second hand from home) and first aid kits. From Kenya pillows, furniture, reading books and kitchenware can be bought cheaply. Financial donations will be welcomed to help cover food and school uniforms as they grow!
With open land all around, the Masai area can easily be explored on foot from your new home. Families and children are happy to show you around and will take you for walks
Volunteer Gill chats with the neighbours. The Masai programme is also just as much about experiencing every day family life
How should I manage my money in Kenya?
The currency is Kenyan Shilling. British Pounds and Euros are widely used. Be aware that Scottish Pounds are not accepted in Kenya. Cash machines are widely available in the country. We do not recommend bringing travellers cheques as these are difficult to change and often exchange rates are unfavourable. Cash is best. If you run out of money and need extra funds from family at home, Western Union is one of many international money transfer services which enable you to pick up money within minutes from one of the many agents in the area.
What are the costs after I have registered and booked my space?
After you have secured your space on the project, the weekly project costs are as follows: £125 pw for week 1 and 2, followed by £40 for week 3 onwards. This includes accommodation with your host family and basic Masai meals. You will need a return flight to Nairobi (Jomo Kenyatta airport, airport code NBO) and travel insurance which covers medical bills and repatriation should you need it. The flights comparison website Skyscanner.net compares all airlines flying to Nairobi. Insurance can usually be bought with your flight. The average cost these days for a two week trip is i.r.o. £30 – £40. The airport pick up and transfer to the Masai village is also payable after arrival and costs between £30 and £40 each way. The cost varies because different villages are at different distances from Nairobi. The transfer can be shared if two are sharing the same car.
Because Masai meals and are not adapted to suit their Western visitor’s tastes to keep the experience more authentic and maintain the Masai traditions, all volunteers make purchases at a supermarket on the way to make their stay more comfortable. The driver will assist you with this. You should allow £20 to £30 for a trolley’s worth of extra shopping. Suggestions include long life milk in small cartons, extra drinking water, cartoned juice, canned fruit, biscuits, chocolate etc. Once settled in after a few days you can easily reach the local town for extra supplies. You may also want to bring one or two plastic food containers to store perishables and stop the ants getting at your biscuits!
Half of all volunteers take a safari at some point, so allow extra for this. Although some volunteers say they feel they did not need one with so much wildlife walking through their village. £150 – £200 will cover a basic safari trip but if your budget can stretch it is definitely recommended as you might never get another chance and tours booked from the UK are considerably more expensive. For everyday weekly expenditure, it is difficult to provide an average as in the Masai this can vary enormously between volunteers. Whilst some volunteers may choose to stay with their family their entire stay and spend nothing, others may take a moto-taxi every day into Ngong town to shop, eat and swim and contribute materials for local projects in need. To be on the safe side, and excluding a safari or special purchases, £50 per week should be more than enough. But it is always a good idea to take as much as you can because you never know what you might want to do in your free time.
How and when do I need to pay for my project?
An invoice for your stay with the family will be sent by email shortly after we have received your flight to Nairobi. We will organise the airport pick up and transfer for you automatically when we receive your flights and this is paid on arrival to the driver.
Is Kenya safe?
Living in the Masai away from the hustle and bustle of the cities, you could not be safer. Volunteers live alongside villagers Masai style usually with two volunteers sharing. Three meals a day are provided. Informal, day to day support will be provided by your host family and project co-ordinators and easily be reached by telephone.
What happens after I have booked?
As soon as you have booked with the once-only £125 registration fee (this covers one or more projects within a year), you will receive a welcome email confirming your booking and explaining in more detail how to get organised for you trip.
We will Buddy you up with another volunteer going to the Masai programme arriving around the same time so you should have a good chance to travel together if you wish to
You will also receive a Welcome Pack with some useful information which will include project specific advice on what to take, how to prepare and travel health recommendations
Below is an example timeline for what to do after you’re booked on
At anytime : get flights to arrive on 14th/15th/16th or 29th/30th/31st of the month you booked on for. This helps the coordinator to organise the small number of host families available if most volunteers arrive on the set dates. A pick up will be automatically organised for you from Nairobi airport (Jomo Kenyatta, airport code NBO). The majority of volunteers arrive on flights between 2am and 7am so do not worry if your flight arriving at 2am seems too early! If you are travelling overland from elsewhere in Africa, shortly before you travel we will put you in touch with your Kenya programme coordinator and their team to arrange a suitable meeting point/pick up point. For late flights or when an immediate transfer is not practical or when the roads are muddy, an overnight stay in Nairobi is provided. There is no need to organise anything, your driver will advise and assist you on arrival.
Add yourself to the Buddy List to meet other volunteers, travel together or simply find a familiar face when you arrive.
Join the volunteer community on Facebook to see recent pictures from projects and other interesting stories and updates
5 weeks before travel: start the visa application process online
3 to 4 weeks before travel: contact your travel nurse or travel clinic to make appointments for jabs and boosters (for more information on what is typically recommended please refer to the NHS website fitfortravel). Malaria tablets are essential, please consult a good pharmacist a couple of weeks before travel. If you do not have enough time to make an appointment at your usual doctor’s clinic, each city in the UK has independent travel clinics which can provide advice and jabs.
Before travel : A recent CRB or similar alternative is required for this project. If you are travelling soon or not in the UK, details of alternatives will be emailed to you.
Before travel : Arrange suitable travel insurance – it is essential to make sure your policy covers medical bills and repatriation to your home country should you require it
As soon as you have flights to Nairobi: Email us your flight to organise your pick up
At anytime : pay for your programme – we will send you an invoice by email to pay online – don’t worry we will send you a reminder if you forget!
We will organise your pick up and transfer from Nairobi airport automatically when we receive your flights.
Kenya Masai at a glance
Kenya is bordered by Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda and Sudan. The capital city is Nairobi. Kenya is named after Mount Kenya, which is the second among the highest peaks in Africa.Kenya gained independence in 1963 and a key figure in Kenya’s liberation was Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of the country
Please note that this project is a ‘getting back to basics’ experience and will not suit everyone. It may be best viewed as an experience matching that of the stone age and the volunteer will need to take with them everything they consider will make their stay more comfortable. Because of the number of volunteers passing through over recent years there have been many generous gifts made to the families including many electrical items left behind so if your family has anything which appears out of place this is because a volunteer before you has donated this. If you would like to help families who do not receive guests on a regular basis or at all, perhaps they are in remote locations or live in precariously extreme situations where it would not be practical or safe to place a volunteer, please contact the volunteer coordinator about making a visit as there is plenty of need in the area but it is a large one! Although every care has been taken by local coordinators not to put volunteers in any challenging situation they have limited resources and time to ‘soften’ the Masai experience. For volunteers looking for more western accommodation in Africa we recommend our programmes in Ghana or Morocco.
Kenya has a tropical climate. Kenya gets a lot of sunshine all year round; however it is usually cooler in the morning and evenings so you will need to take a warm fleece or jumper together with a wooly hat. The hottest period in Kenya is February to March and the coldest is July to August. April to June is the longest rain season. The highest temperature in Kenya is 30 degrees and the lowest is 22 degrees. On the Masai reserve it can be a bit cooler due to the altitude and sweeping plains so best to pack a jumper or two for the evenings and warm pyjamas if visiting between April and June.
Placement at a glance
18yrs+ on day of arrival
Informal teaching, care work, playwork, one to one support and outdoor games.
Pre-departure helpdesk, in-country coordinating team and 24hr emergency support. Your senior volunteer coordinator is actually Masai himself and works tirelessly on behalf of the Masai communities to improve living conditions and create a longterm sustain
Project location: Masai reserve near Nairobi
Traditional Masai accommodation
Full or part time Monday to Friday
English spoken by staff. Children’s ability variable from a few words to fluent
Minimum 1 week
All Year Round. Try where possible to arrange flight to arrive on 14th/15th/16th or 29th/30th/31st of each month. This helps with host family organising and also increases chances of there being more volunteers at the time of your visit.
When to apply
Apply early to secure your place.
£125 per week (weeks 1 -2, includes accommodation with host family) & £125 (Registration to join OV which provides a year of volunteering without registering again). £40 from week 3 onwards.
Airport Pick-up Service
Airport pick-up and transfer service organised for all volunteers. Allow £30 - £60. May require overnight stay if arriving after dark, your driver will organise this for you on arrival.
Shop in Ngong town
Bars in town
Chemist in town
Bus 40 minutes
Taxis 40 minutes
Cash machine in town
Bank in town
Pay phone in town
Internet access in town
Laundry on-site + small fee
Basics, what to take?
Sleeping bag, pillow
Volunteers live alongside villagers Masai style, usually two volunteers sharing. Your host family prepares three simple Kenyan meals each day. They will look after you as one of the family and show you around. The Masai programme manager can also be reached by telephone at any time.
Your friendly volunteer coordinator, pictured above at front, together with his team are all Masais who knows every host family personally so you will not be better placed for a source of information and guidance on the background of these incredible people you will be living with.
Your volunteer support team’s commitment and focus is on securing the best sustainable outcomes for the community and supporting host families with their visiting guests. Host families often become a second family and return visits by volunteers are not uncommon. Perhaps your trip will be the first of many!
”Responsive partnerships for a sustainable future”
Many volunteers find the experience productive and extremely worthwhile to work so close with the people they are living with.
The benefits of your local in-country team
What is a volunteer coordinator?
Every project has a volunteer coordinator. This is the person responsible for organising your volunteering and looking after your welfare needs during your stay and they are all English speaking.
What experience do volunteer coordinators have?
All our coordinators are local people with knowledge and experience gained over many years of supporting volunteers. They have a deep knowledge of their local community, providing an invaluable source of information.
9 in 10 coordinators at our destinations have between 5 – 7 years experience and 7 in 10 of our coordinators have supported more than a thousand volunteers each (current as of August 2013).
If they don’t know where to buy Parmesan cheese when the shops are shut, no one will!
Who are volunteer coordinators?
At some destinations the volunteer coordinator will also be the manager/director of the project you are volunteering if you are based in one location. Examples of manager/coordinator projects will be Kenya-Mombasa/Peru/Cambodia/South Africa/Argentina/Uganda/India.
Some destinations require an independent volunteer coordinator because there are many projects volunteers go to. Independent coordinators will organise a variety of placements at many different projects in the local community throughout your visit. He/she will liaise with all the projects/schools/hospitals on your behalf to organise schedules for your volunteer group. Examples of volunteer programmes are: Morocco/Ghana/Tanzania/Kenya-Masai/Malawi/Mexico-Merida/Ecuador.
Thailand and Nepal offer a mix of both.
Is there only one volunteer coordinator?
Coordinators have other staff supporting them, from drivers to housekeepers, and cooks and assistant coordinators.
Support team size varies between project type and time of year. The typical size of any support team will be 5 – 7. There may also be a long stay volunteer helping out
The Uganda school project had at last count 15 local staff supporting volunteers which ranged from security to water carriers!
What do coordinators do?
Airport pick up
Your in-country coordinator will organise your pick up and make sure you get to the volunteer house as smoothly as possible. If your coordinator does not meet volunteers from the airport, their trusted regular driver will be sent to meet you.
Liaise with local projects
If you are on a mixed volunteer programme (Morocco/Ghana/Tanzania/Kenya-Masai/Malawi/Mexico-Merida/Ecuador) your coordinator will be regularly liaising with the projects you will be going to today, this week and next, organising suitable times and communicating schedules to the volunteer group.
Help you when things go wrong
We are often asked what happens when things go wrong. Your local team are the experts on getting you the help you need immediately. They have seen it all before (in a nice way) and are well experienced in looking after hundreds of volunteers each year with all the usual niggles from sunburn to upset tummies. Whether you need a doctor in the night for sickness or you want to try out a new project or move bedroom or volunteer house.
If you have remembered to print off your project contact details and leave them with family (these are sent before travel to all volunteers) – your family can also contact the coordinator directly. Or they can call us and we can put them in touch.
But if you need further assistance or advice we are here to help you. Contact us straightaway and we might be able to make the niggly issues go away.
For any country related crises which may occur which would require volunteers to return home, your coordinator and their team will ensure everyone is safely escorted to the airport or Embassy as per the advice provided by each volunteer’s government together with any additional support that may be required.
Help you when you feel unwell
Coordinators are the first port of call if you think you may need medical assistance. They will organise an escort to the local clinic/hospital and make sure you are well treated. They can also contact home and will be happy to speak to parents to explain how you are. If you are volunteering alone, they may also stay with you in the hospital or request that a member of their staff and a volunteer keep you company as it can be quite daunting to be in a foreign hospital, even if it is only an infected mosquito bite!
Most health problems are minor and with a day or two’s bed rest either at the volunteer house or the local hospital and plenty of water, most volunteers are back to their normal selves again.
While on the subject of hospitals – make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover local medical bills and repatriation. In developing countries and where medical care is mostly private, it is not uncommon to be admitted into a private room for something which would be treated as an out-patient back home. Without insurance, hospital fees can be as much as £200 per day.
For doctors appointments when you only need a prescription, your coordinator will help you to locate the nearest doctor/clinic. For these it is often easier to pay on the spot and not claim on the insurance. Expect to pay approx. £5 – £15 per consultation and £5 – £20 for basic medication.
Your coordinator knows all the best trips and best prices which volunteers over the years have participated on and recommended. If the options are not posted on a notice board ask your coordinator what is available and how to book. Typical prices across all destinations as a very rough guide: £30 – £40 for a day’s activity, £200 – £400 for a trek/budget safari for 3 – 5 days. Most volunteers go together in a group for more fun and get discounts. Additional trip discounts for volunteers are available in Ghana and Tanzania.
Return transfer back to the airport
Your coordinator can organise the return trip back to the airport for you, simply ask a few days before your flight. This is not automatically organised as many volunteers will have made friends and may leave the project a day or two earlier to sightsee before flying home, want to go shopping right up to the last minute or forget that the transfer was booked and have already jumped in a taxi!
Do I need experience? This project is as much about a cultural exchange and supporting the Masai community’s way of life than it is simply the volunteering. With this is mind, no experience is needed and everything is a bonus! Every volunteer supports the Masai community simply with their visit and all additional volunteering is considered an exceptional bonus. Your presence is enough to make a huge difference and keep more Masai tribespeople on their land. Whether you are an active volunteer at a local school, help to build a community library, dig irrigation channels or you walk the children to school for a busy mum, you will be warmly welcomed and your help massively appreciated.
When do I choose what I will be doing? Speak to your coordinator and host family after arrival about the available options. Most volunteers will want to be actively involved with informal teaching and playwork at a local school or nursery. Some volunteers prefer to spend time with their family whilst other volunteers may be involved with a current building project.
Will I be met on arrival? All volunteers are met at the airport in Nairobi on arrival.
Will I be on my own? Tell us if you want to arrive and be placed with another volunteer. This is generally easier in the summer between June and August. Generally volunteers arriving on their own are placed in a family with a volunteer who has arrived before you. Tell us if you want to arrive and be placed with another volunteer or if you prefer to have your own host family. If you are placed with a family on your own there is usually another volunteer within walking distance.
I need to teach a minimum number of hours for my education course? Check with your course provider if informal teaching will be acceptable and lesson prep time included. Try to stay as long as you can, a month or more is preferable. With Masai schools so often closing at random times and teachers not turning up when they are not paid, you may need to teach informally to make your numbers up.
How can I book a safari? Your local coordinator, after arrival, will help you to organise an affordable safari. Often volunteers group up and do this together which is more fun. However if you happen to be around during the wildebeest migration in June/July you may feel you don’t need to with so much wandering past your Masai village. The Nairobi National Park only 10 minutes from Nairobi is a popular alternative to a safari if you are time limited and didn’t see many animals during your visit (although unlikely), book one of their tours in advance with a guide (preferable) or hire a city taxi to drive you round. Entrance fees for self-drive/taxi about £40, guided tours more but considerably less than a safari. Expect to see most of the big five with a unique city scape backdrop in your photos.
What do I need to take? A mosquito net and repellent is essential together with lots of food, snacks and water which can all be bought on arrival in Kenya. Most volunteers will make a trip to the supermarket to stock up on long life foodstuffs like cartooned milk, treats, biscuits etc Picture books and easy to read story books are popular and can be donated to one of the new community libraries. Reference books with pictures (atlases, science etc) are in demand. Sports equipment (bat and balls, footballs) to play with the children in the village will come in useful and if you want to be involved in manual work and building, you will need to bring strong working gloves and sturdy footwear.
Where will I be staying? Volunteers are placed in small groups 2-4 with local families on the Masai reserve in the Ngong Hills. See Accommodation tab above for more.
Is Kenya safe? The Masai reserve is very safe, as with most rural communities around the world, it is well away from the poverty and hustle and bustle of Nairobi. If it the best place to be in Kenya! Few volunteers make any trip into Nairobi other than to start a safari or to return to the airport.
What should I wear? Basic hardwearing and coloured/patterned clothes which won’t show the dirt are best. Be aware that the Kenyan summer runs from October to February. Between June and August it can be warm during the day but cold at night and in the morning so layers are best. Most volunteers travelling between June and August take a mix of clothes for the type of weather you would expect in an English summer and an English October.
Do I need a visa for Kenya? Visas can still be obtained on arrival for UK/European passport holders. You will need 6 months left on your passport when you leave Kenya at the end of your stay and a clean $50 US Dollar note (approx. £30). Take an extra $50 Dollar note in case the cost of the visa goes up when you arrive. Anxious travellers might like to apply for the new Kenya E-visa online before travel to save on the queue and questions on arrival. Further information provided after booking.
Are there fixed arrival dates? Volunteers should arrive on 14th/15th/16th or 29th/30th/31st of each month, or as close as possible. These dates make organising host family stays easier for your coordinator and helps to cluster the volunteers around the same dates.
Will I be placed with friends? Volunteers arriving in groups of up to 4+ are usually placed together although bear in mind most families can only accept 2 volunteers in the same room. In the case of larger groups of friends, host families are provided which are closer together. Occasionally 3 or 4 volunteers have preferred to share 2 beds between them although this might not be the most comfortable option!
How do I organise meals? Due to the location of this project, all meals are provided by your host families. In addition all volunteers are assisted to make long life food purchases on arrival in Kenya to top up the food provided. Meat is rare in the Masai as meat is expensive so vegetarians should encounter few problems.
Is there drinking water? You will need to take as much water for drinking as you can at the supermarket on your way together with water purifying tablets from home for when your water runs out on days you cannot get into town. Volunteers have recommended taking soluble flavoured tablets like Berocca to take away the taste of the purifying tablets. Powdered juice sachets can be bought in Kenya in a variety of flavours which can make up a litre of water.
Will I need jabs for Kenya? We recommend seeing a travel health nurse at least 6 weeks before travel, although some independent travel health clinics can usually provide jabs and boosters just before travel if you cannot get an appointment elsewhere. A reminder : malaria tablets must be started before travel, not after you arrive in Kenya.
Is there mobile/ internet access? Buy a cheap unlocked mobile phone and buy a Kenya Sim card on arrival. Even in the most remote locations in the Masai Mara, where signal is not reliable, internet access can be reached on a weekly basis in the local town.
Should I take cash or cards? We recommend taking two cards if possible and cash but whilst you are with your family, with your own personal stock of food and water you will have bought after arrival in Kenya, you will not really need to spend anything during your stay with your family. Some volunteers only feel the need to leave the village to go on safari or when they fly home.
How will I get back to the airport? Your coordinator can help organise your journey back to the airport, simply call them a few days before your flight.
Contact us for specific questions
We are always happy to answer any questions you may have. We pride ourselves in the vast knowledge of our projects and are always willing to share. Give us a call for a quick chat on 01603 280702 or email [email protected] to get the answers you need!
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